Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
As the 2014 World Cup in Brazil draws nearer, the U.S. Men’s National Team heads into their toughest stretch of World Cup qualifying this month with matches against Costa Rica on the road and Mexico at home.
Despite the difficult task ahead for the squad, midfielder Landon Donovan believes confidence is soaring throughout the team.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt as confident about getting a result on one of these trips, Donovan said to USSoccer.com about facing Costa Rica on the road. “We need to go in with the mindset that we absolutely can win this game, and that has to be the mentality. If we carry that energy and that belief onto the field Friday night, everyone is going to sense it on both teams and we have a real chance to do something special.”
It’s nearly the polar opposite from the last time that head coach Jurgen Klinsmann prepared his squad for matches against Costa Rica, when the side was coming off a poor loss at Honduras and had hardly impressed in recent matches. Fast-forward to the start of September and the USMNT are currently in the middle of a 12-match winning streak, the longest in team history.
Add to that the 2013 Gold Cup title this summer and the team’s current status in first place of the Hexagonal in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that Donovan says that the team is starting to really believe that they can win difficult qualifying matches.
“I think we’re at a point now in U.S. Soccer where we can really start to believe these things are possible and have it be realistic,” Donovan said. “That doesn’t mean it happens every time. We go in expecting to be at least on the same level as them and have a realistic chance to win that game.”
With the team sitting on 13 points from six games, automatic qualification for the World Cup becomes a real possibility within the next two games. According to U.S. Soccer, the USMNT could qualify on Friday night with a win in Costa Rica, a draw between Mexico and Honduras, and either a loss or draw by Panama against Jamaica.
However, it’s more likely that Donovan and Co. will have the opportunity to qualify for Brazil 2014 at home on Tuesday against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. It’s an opportunity that the team is dreaming about.
“There would be no better feeling than standing on the field in Columbus on Tuesday night and all of us celebrating,” Donovan said. I can envision scarves around our neck, American flags, the crowd going crazy and everybody celebrating together. That would be an incredible moment, but there is a lot that has to happen before that.
“The beauty of it is that it’s all in our hands. The last thing you want to do in these situations is come down to games nine or 10 having to qualify. Nothing is guaranteed in World Cup Qualifying. It happens every time where big teams don’t qualify for the World Cup.
“We’ve put ourselves in a fantastic position and now we need to really smell the blood and go for it and finish it off.”